Nouvelle vague (1990)

19 03 2008

All the aspects of Godard’s later years are present: the far too articulate dialogue, self-reflexive techniques, and plenty of other pretentious mush. Despite how planned and artificial it feels, it has an almost incomparable beauty to it. Godard has expanded on the poetic touches featured in Slow Motion but at the same time, has expanded on the dry lifeless feeling featured in Hail Mary. Accusing him of self-parody would be superfluous as I’m almost positive that he’s one hundred percent aware of it and that he’s participating in the joke. In fact, accusing him of anything, negative or positive, seems pointless because it’s almost as though he knows what certain people will think. Quite an oddity, these late Godard films.

There might be something of a plot here. My closet guess would be that it centers around the world as seen by Alain Delon’s character. There’s plenty of bourgeois characters talking about literature, drinking coffee, and randomly providing theology lessons. I’d like to think the movie is more about defining the conventions of art cinema: what is the image, who are the characters, and “why is it always why?” As interesting (and entertaining) as this pondering exercise is, it eventually loses it’s novelty. Godard’s ideas always seem to where thin as they are excercises in the abilities of cinema, and not in the lives of real people.

Of course, since this is more a meditation about film rather than life, it is easily one of the most aesthetically evolved films I’ve ever seen. In fact, the opening sequence feels closer to Gummo than it does to Hail Mary, and that’s even with an overwhelmingly austere technique. There’s moments here that are for whatever reason hit a perfect rhythm and resonate in unparalleled emotions. Of course, all this rhythm which could have carried the film for it’s whole running time is almost always intruded by “arty” dialogue, which is almost completely composed from quotes. This quite infuriating, but perfectly represents the downfall of many post-60s Godard films. It’s easy to admire how he much he is pushing the art, but at the same time, it never amounts to anything more than academic wank material. I’m glad this film exists, though, as I can see how these advancements can be used to push the art of cinema into new territories. Let’s call it “a step in the right direction” shall we?

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2 responses

19 03 2008
David

Wow, what a great review!
I point out so many right things (accusing him for anything seems pointless, most aesthetically evolved film) and your conclusion sounds totally right to me!
As I stated many times before, I understand everybody who doesn’t like Godard’s work in a sense that they are not able to connect with anything the film offers. Still, I believe that everybody should see that there’s something at work in this films, a superordinate reflection on film as an art form. And , that there is a need for this basic neverending questioning of the medium, for somebody pushing the art like Godard does, especially nowadays…
I’m happy that you watched it, I couldn’t tell you why it’s one of my favorite films, or only in quoting you again: “There’s moments here that are for whatever reason hit a perfect rhythm and resonate in unparalleled emotions.” That’s the feeling I have for most of the film’s lenght.

19 03 2008
Jake Savage

Thanks for the response, David.

Yeah, I would say that most post-60s Godard films are built around this previously mentioned “rhythm.” Well, I guess all films are, but usually that’s just referred to as pacing. A film like this is completely musical, like the overlapping voiceovers and Godard’s usual music editing. A great technical experiment, but to me, avoiding a lot of equally key components, i.e characters and character depth.

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